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Rotten Jelly Beans

£13.00

Tales of Girlhood Misadventure
By Michele Koh

ISBN: 978-1-84747-352-3
Published: 2007
Pages: 197
Key Themes: bi-polar disorder, manic depression, schizo-affective disorder, electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), medication, addiction

WARNING: CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

“I would sit up all night and sometimes first thing in the morning just banging away at the keyboard hoping to loosen the chains of a mind that had condemned itself. I was in hell and all I could do was stay in that agonizing position and keep writing, so I knew I was still alive.” - Michele Koh

Description

'Rotten Jellybeans' is a comical and surreal adventure into the madcap world of teenage girlhood. Michele Koh looks at her rapid and frightening descent into drug addiction and manic depression with raw and punchy honesty. This collection of 22 short stories and poems about drugs, love, sex and insanity is perhaps a tale that every single young girl making that transition into womanhood can understand. Dark, funny and delightful.

About the Author

Michele Koh is a journalist who has written for publications like Psychologies and Harper’s Bazaar. She is also a scriptwriter and a children’s book illustrator. Michele was editor of the LCC News at the London College of Communication, where she graduated in journalism in 2007 with a first class honours degree.

Born in Singapore in 1978, she attended an all girls’ convent school and began working in television as a children’s show host when she was 11. In her late teens, Michele was diagnosed with bipolar schizo-affective disorder and underwent 7 treatments of electro-convulsive therapy. In the following years she grappled with behavioural addictions, and dependency on prescription drugs. It was during the nadir of her illness that Michele began to write.

Book Extract

Stereo Guy Says

These days are pretty normal. I have a routine to them. I look forward to dinner, to the wine that accompanies dinner, then accompanies me upstairs to what I call ‘flagrant delicto’ time. Flagrant delicto means caught red handed. I checked it up in the dictionary after reading ‘The Magus’. I decided after Geoff left that my room was too teenage with all the movie posters and mad magazines. I removed all the posters, but they left cracks and chips in my wall where the plaster fell off, so I spent three days plastering the cracks with blue-tack, and mixing my water colour paint till it was the same colour as the walls and painted over the blue-tack. I threw out my comics and picture books and bought novels instead. Authors with exotic sounding names like Milan Kundera, Haruki Mirakumi, Vikram Seth, Ben Okri, David Malouf, Patrick Suskind and John Fowles. I also bought language tapes. French, German, Japanese, Italian and Spanish, and I was going to learn them all in half a year. I started listening to classical music. I was going to make myself a lady.

The hero in ‘The Magus’ is having a meal in a greek villa – wine, meat and cheese – and I have fixed myself a meal of gorgonzola, pear and cold cuts, feeling like I am in the book. I feel a little restless because it’s that time of day, when the sky changes from violet to mauve that I lose myself a little again. I go upstairs with my wine and I feel a twinge of guilt, like I have something to hide. The guilt I feel comes from being aware that locked in my room I’m in that place again where reality is pleasantly distorted. I drink, not quite high. It’s the pills – my zopiclones and valiums. The sedatives keep me out of trouble. Ever since the psychiatrist gave me these pills, I no longer need to leave the house looking for heroin or pot. It makes life so much easier.

They calm me down enough to be alone. I smoke regular cigarettes. It’s all good now. I am a good girl, a real lady. I don’t take street drugs or get drunk on cheap rice wine. I drink good wine in small quantities and with food. The drugs are prescribed. The cigarettes are not laced and it’s just tobacco. I only call it ‘flagrant delicto time’ because I know that it’s the same things that brought me to my hell, only now they’re in the acceptable form and done in moderation. I have been caught in the act of getting high, because when I go up into the room, this creature like God comes alive and watches me, shaking his head, going tsk tsk.

The metallic taste from the pills comes after about ten minutes. My air-conditioning is at twenty degrees celsius. The pill starts talking to me. I talk back. We can never decide what to do or which cd to listen to. I put on Lee Perry or Massive Attack or 60s music or whatever. Then I hear them…Allo...amba amba. It doesn’t make a difference who I put on, they start talking to me and asking me to lie down or they will tell me about myself. They know my secrets. I heard a background voice saying: “Come closer, I have a secret just for you.” Like there was a living being hiding inside my stereo whose future depended upon my listening to them. I went up to the stereo and turned up the volume. He said, “Deflowering my baby, are you my baby?” But those were just song lyrics. I’m sure he is trying to tell me something more, something just for me, but the medium is not allowing the message to be transmitted. I sat there and sang back to him and I could have sworn the lyrics changed. He told me something, just me. This wasn’t meant for anyone else. There was the time that a guy told me not to say he was unfaithful cause he gave me all his time. I yelled back at him. I told him to talk straight for god’s sake!

Then the pill voice sings to me ‘silence is golden’, but my eyes still see. The pill voice turns into a fanatical, superstitious, religious, moral zealot. I tell pill voice that through the mechanisms of the stereo, they can see me and call my name. They hear me and they read my thoughts and when I concentrate hard enough the voices from the stereo and my thoughts come together and we understand each other. They know me. They see me. They may be miles away or dead, but for that moment they acknowledge me. We are of kind. Pill wizened me up and said that’s not happening and neither is Mickey Knox on my Natural Born Killers poster trying to convey a special message I must try and decode.

I think mostly we feel bad because he’s there and we’re afraid to admit it and even more afraid to deny it. Sometimes I really believe he’s giving me insight through the pill. It’s like pill voice is a suddenly engorged conscience, seeing everything in black and white and trying to find out whether it’s God or the Devil lurking in every tiny thing and action. I don’t think I ever had a conscience. I just did things and now there’s this pill that’s helping and controlling me. My Jiminy Cricket.

Now I don’t know what goes on with the pill. It’s a strange time. Time spent in front of my full-length mirror, looking deep into my eyes, trying to make sense of it all. It’s time spent imagining life as a sane lady.


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This product was added to our catalog on Saturday 11 August, 2007.

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